Construction begins for $ 9.7 million.
Construction begins for $ 9.7 million Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability
Mayor says this could be the start of the city’s emergence as a Gulf research and education center
By Fran Thompson
It may seem like a stretch to compare the soon-to-be-coming Gulf Coast Eco Center to Gulf Shores with the space program that turned the small town of Huntsville into the largest city in Alabama.
But Jean-Michel Cousteau is on board, and the son of famous oceanographer and underwater filmmaker Jacque Cousteau was in Gulf Shores to help Mayor Robert Craft and other city officials inaugurate the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism. and Sustainability (GCCES) to be located on a 12-acre site located between the city’s school complex and Gulf State Park. The construction site abuts 100 acres of mostly city-owned wetlands. Mayor Craft said just as Rocket City is synonymous with NASA and its space program, Gulf Shores could be the center of research and education for all things Gulf of Mexico.
“We have a NASA Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. I want us to have a comparable position – an oceanic center for lack of a better term, ”said Craft. “I know we have the Gulf, not an ocean, but a space and an ocean. I think we can do it in Alabama, and that’s how we start. ”
Cousteau’s innovative educational program, Ambassadors of the Environment, will be at the forefront of the Center for Ecotourism.
“I’m emotionally involved because everything I tried to do, my dad tried to do, my team tried to make is happening, happening, happening,” said Costeau. “Future decision-makers – young people – are already making better decisions.
Environmental Ambassadors connect participants to their natural and cultural surroundings through overnight camps focused on active and hands-on outdoor experiences with a curriculum developed for students in Grades 4 to 12.
Construction of the ecocentre will begin in early 2022 and completion is expected by March 2023. The $ 9.7 million project funded by the Restoration Law will be a center of programs promoting sustainable tourism, environmental awareness and natural resource management. The theory is that what’s good for the Gulf of Mexico is good for a tourism economy centered around the Gulf.
Total city funding for the Restore Act generated by a settlement with BP following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is $ 41.8 million, including $ 4.4 million to extend the Fort Morgan Trail , $ 5.9 million for the Little Lagoon restoration project and $ 21.7 million for improving traffic capacity, including Canal Route.
The ecocentre will include a large hall, dining room, offices, classrooms, outdoor learning spaces, gardens, greenhouses, laboratories, instructor accommodation and team building areas. . The construction will use the latest technology in the design of sustainable buildings.
Staff at the Eco Center and Cousteau will produce programs in cooperation with the nearby Gulf State Park Learning Campus and use GSP’s backcountry trails, lakes, beaches and buildings as part of its program. studies.
Other partners include Valor Hospitality, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Gulf Shores City Schools, with the cooperation of numerous environmental and ecotourism entities.
Research universities, environmental education groups and businesses are potential partners. Regional school districts will also have access to the programs.